I've usually got a backlog of books on my Kindle, but I try to have only two open at a time: one fictional novel and one non-fictional. At the moment I'm oscillating between Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock and Speak: A Novel by Louisa Hall, both brilliant books that I'm totally immersed in. So I wasn't really looking for another read when I came across Getting There: A Book of Mentors by Gillian Zoe Segal, but it had me from page one.
While it's been on top seller lists for several months, I hadn't paid much attention to this book until I realised a quote from Cathy Guisewite that I was doing a web search for was included in it. My nephew recently started his first semester at university and my sister asked me to put some words of wisdom into a note for him: try new things, the journey is the destination, eat pizza every night of the week while you can... that sort of thing. Here's the quote I was looking for:
Anyway, I was intrigued, so I downloaded the sample to my Kindle, and by the end of the first chapter I'd downloaded the rest of it and didn't do much else other than sleep until I'd finished it. The book features of a different personality for reach chapter, discussing the keys to their success and their advice to entrepreneurs or people looking to lead a life less ordinary.
With a range of business people, artists and not-for-profit leaders, I liked how Segal didn't use the usual definition of success as 'financial', but instead mixed things up with stories from the fashion world, music, and TV. The over-arching theme from almost all those featured is persistence. Warren Buffet was rejected from Harvard University but went on to become one of the richest men in the world. Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, tried to sell the series for 7 years - no one would touch it. Frank Gehry, one of the most important architects of our times, was on the verge of bankruptcy for years before finding recognition. And one of my favourite chapters, Hans Zimmer, the famous composer, was repeatedly kicked out of schools as a child and told he'd end up in prison!
Chances are you've heard some of these success stories already, but what's great about this book, and what keeps you wanting to read on, is the level of comfort and rapport that Gillian Zoe Segel has created with each of these high-profile personalities. While their success seems easy on the surface, the author does a fantastic job of peeling back the layers to show how much work and perseverance was actually required for each of the subjects to reach their goals. Whether you're about to graduate and looking for some direction, an entrepreneur needed a lift, or just curious about some of todays most intriguing minds, I highly recommend Getting There. Not all of us are lucky enough to find a mentor in our lives, and this is a great substitute.